On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its latest summary study, Housing Discrimination against Racial and Ethnic Minorities 2012. The project was a collaborative effort with the Washington-based Urban Institute.

The study found that housing discrimination based on race is not the “blatant door slamming” originally observed in the first national paired-test study conducted in 1977, but much more subtle in nature.

“Just because discrimination has taken on a more subtle form, doesn’t make it any less damaging,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family’s housing, economic and educational opportunities.”

The release of this study marks the first time in over a decade that HUD has released the findings of a national paired-test study. The data is based on 8,000 paired-tests conducted in 28 major metropolitan areas between late summer 2011 and fall 2012.

To help bridge the technological gap between the last national study released in 2000 and this most recent study, Margery Turner, senior vice president for program planning and management at the Urban Institute, said during the release announcement that special emphasis was placed on locating properties advertised via the internet.

Tests were conducted both in the rental housing market and the home-buying market. According to the study’s findings, minority testers were told about and shown fewer homes than their white counterparts with similar backgrounds. The study examined the “three critical steps in the search for housing”:

  • Making an appointment by phone or email – Minority testers who called or emailed to inquire about a home or apartment were just as likely as their white counterparts to be able to schedule an appointment.
  • Meeting in person with a rental housing provider or sales agent – African-American testers wanting to rent were told about 11.4 percent fewer units and African-American testers wanting to buy a home were told about 17 percent fewer homes; Hispanic testers were told about 12.5 percent fewer units to rent and there were no statistically significant differences in the number of homes shows white testers compared to Hispanic testers; Asian testers were told about 9.8 percent fewer rental units and 15.5 percent fewer homes.
  • Inspecting available rental units or homes – African-American testers wanting to rent were shown about 4.2 percent fewer rental units and shown 17.7 percent fewer homes; Hispanic testers were shown 7.5 percent fewer units to rent and there were no statistically significant differences in the number of homes shows white testers compared to Hispanic testers; Asian testers shown 6.6 percent fewer rental units and 18.8 percent fewer homes.

As Margery Turner pointed out in her remarks, these findings represent more than just numbers. As the ERC has continually emphasized in its education and advocacy, an individual’s ability to obtain adequate and safe housing of their choice affects all aspects of daily life – employment and educational opportunities, proximity to friends and family, availability of public transportation, access to commercial and government services, and even safety. This comprehensive study shows that while progress has been made, housing discrimination continues to persist. The ERC will continue its efforts with organizations, such as HUD and the Urban Institute, to ensure that equal opportunity for ALL in housing is a reality.

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